Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Weekend in Houston

Went to see Lovey's Dad for Father's Day in Houston. Grandpa found himself a nice place to take a nap and DR found half an inch where she could squeeze in too. Looks like he's okay with it. Also spent a day adventuring in the big city. Houston is a fun place. Very active inner city life, lots of restaurants and curious things to look at. Here are a few snapshots from the weekend and a few fun things to do if you ever find yourself down that way.

Java Java Cafe is the best place for breakfast. Doesn't look like much from the outside does it? Good, good food and interesting art from local artists is inside and out. They have the best croissants. We weren't there for breakfast this visit but I still stopped in to get a croissant "to go". A girl has got to think about breakfast for tomorrow.

The artwork on the outside of Java Java changes every few months due to a group of local grafitti artists. "It's all good" as Java Java appreciates the beautification and thus the artists are allowed to operate in broad daylight. No faces shown, though, in my pics. I'll have to get a pic next visit of the finished art. I love, love, love grafitti. It's so homemade and personal.

We went exploring in The Heights. They call it The Heights because it's way taller than the rest of Houston - by a foot. I did feel a little light headed there. The elevation, you know.

She's so cheezy!

Spend any time in Houston and you're sure to run across a car from Houston's Art Car Parade. And these artists have such great names. One is "Atomic Dog: One Nation Under a Groove". Don't you want a handle like that? I'm going to have to sic little sis, KT, onto that. "Pleeeez, you know you want to. And change my ringtone on your phone while you're at it. My life doesn't suck and I want your ringtone to sing out to the world that "I'm bringing sexy back."

You want to flock with birdies like these. What do you think a place like this goes for inner city?

Flowers for you!

We liked the topiaries at this garden center. There were also huge animal topiaries galloping down the median of the street. Horses, a T-Rex, giraffes and dancing bears.

Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen makes my current favorite enchi-lotties. (Because you want to eat a-lottie of them!) Notice it's not just "Sylvia's", but "Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen". That's to let you know that they are serious about their enchiladas, enough to dedicate a
whole kitchen to them. They say it's "Absolutely worth the drive!" on their menu. Lovey didn't think so but he drove me anyway. That's why I call him Lovey. We were so close and Lovey and DR were so hungry and we had to pass a lot of restaurants to get there and we couldn't exactly remember where it was and it was not pretty... I think I may have taken advantage of his goodness.

I first read about these enchiladas in Texas Highway magazine. On our next trip to Houston we drove ALL
THE WAY DOWN WESTHEIMER to get there. It's a long way people.

This is the Sarita Enchilada Dinner. It's a heavenly combination of sauteed zuchinni, corn and queso topped with a light cream sauce. Sounds strange, but it's good. Their hot sauce is also the best I've had in a Mexican restaurant. And you know, for me, that's a good sign of things to come. So that's my commercial for Sylvia's (12637 Westheimer).

After all the drama, Lovey said "It was good but I still don't think it was worth the drive." That's what lack of nutrition, mixed with elevation madness from The Heights, will do to you.

And if you ever do find yourself in Houston, you might as well skip on over to Old Town Spring. Thads is the best store. Doesn't it look like something out of a dream? He picks out the best stuff for all the holidays and all the home deco's are so wonderful.

You should plan to spend a whole afternoon at Spring. There's a shop somewhere there that sells fudge (lunch is served!) and then go see Lil' Miss Isabella at The Wild Goose Chase. Isabellas' human has a store that is so prettiful.

Isabella sits on the counter and makes sure you buy something.

So I hope you enjoyed this eye candy. I'm still gonna send out my favorite summer recipe but this will keep you occupied till then.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cup O' Bunny with your Donut Muffin?

I know, I know. I promised Muffins that taste like Donuts but can you believe this little guy? He is very happy to be in this cup because earlier he was in Mr. Beau Hiney's mouth.

Here's the hunter cat pretending he's a flower.

Then little baby bunny was so grateful to me that he jumped himself right into my little, teeny teapot so I could take some more pictures of him. Somebody should write a story about him because he is so precious and has such good manners.

With three cats we have Wonder Pets (see Nick Jr.) moments aplenty. One word such as "Bunny", "Lizard" or "Snake" and people are scampering out the door to liberate whatever has found itself in the mouth of one of our kittiez.

And don't you worry about that Mr. Beau Hiney, he usually gets his comeuppance. Somewhere I have a pic of him with his intended lunch wrapped around his neck and him looking a little confused about who actually has who.

Enough of the baby bunny... here is the loveliest of muffins recipe. They are sure to put you in a sugar and butter coma. Make sure you have a couple cans of Spaghettio's or something else the kids can fix themselves for dinner later. You don't want to waste this coma.

I found this recipe at in the "Breakfast" category. Alicia has an interesting blog with lots of good food.

Donut Muffins
adapted from Orangette

For muffins:
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon white or apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs

For topping:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2-2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a standard-size muffin tin with cooking spray.In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg, and whisk to mix them thoroughly. Set aside.Combine the milk and the vinegar in a measuring cup, and set aside.Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or, alternatively, in a large mixing bowl with electric beaters nearby), and beat on medium speed for a few seconds, until the butter is soft and creamy. With the motor running, add the sugar in a steady stream. Continue beating, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice, until the mixture increases in volume and lightens to pale yellow. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until they are just combined.With a wooden spoon, mix 1/4 of the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Add 1/3 of the milk mixture. Continue to add the dry and wet ingredients alternately, ending with the dries. Mix until the dough is smooth and well combined, but do not over mix.Divide the batter between the cups of the muffin tin. Bake until the muffins are firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25-32 minutes.When the muffins are cool enough to handle, prepare the topping: melt the butter in the microwave or on the stovetop, and pour the powdered sugar into a deep bowl. Using a pastry brush and working one muffin at a time, lightly brush the entire outside of the muffin with butter, and then roll it in the powdered sugar. Shake off any excess, and place the finished muffins on a rack or serving platter. Serve.

Nutmeg seeds are about 3/4" and are easily grated for super fresh nutmeg. You can do this with a little teeny grater. I think I bought this one at Target or World Market. Nutmeg seeds are long lasting and can be purchased one at a time in the bulk spice section of stores like Central Market or Whole Foods. As a matter of fact, you should purchase all your spices this way as it is super affordable and you can get just the amount you need for the next 6 months so that your spices are always fresh.

Some of the muffin edges may break off while buttering and sugaring. These are "tester" pieces, so don't worry about them. Enjoy!

I'm supposed to be packing to leave for Houston. Better go.

Next Blog: My absolute favorite easy summer dinner

Monday, June 15, 2009

Of Cupcakes and Dancing

My first blog! What to write? What to write! How about the last big event and project I worked on, my sisters wedding. That'll do.
Meet Bill and Gwyn. My sister and her new hubby hail from Colorado. The whole family flew in from afar to make the wedding magic happen. And what magic it was! My job was the Cupcake "Cake", "the mother figure" did all the flowers, Brother Chef "cheff-ed", Mr. Bojangles wrote and sang a song and hitched these two together and little sister kept us laughing. Oh what I wouldn't do for a video snippet of the dance she did hiking in the Rocky Mountains! "Thank you Mama for making me gold pants." You can't make stuff like this up. But I digress... many other family and friends rounded out the happy wedding work party.

There was a wee amount of shenanigans... white water river rafting was squeezed in somewhere, hiking in the mountains with snow, stalking large beasties in the Rocky Mountains, shopping with starving people (you get what you deserve, people, when you put the finikiest restaurant picker in charge of scoping out a lunch destination) and the "man of honor"(?) and food (Enchiladas and the works!) arriving with plenty of time to spare. Isn't four minutes before official start time considered on time?

Take a look at the cupcakes AND something else I forgot to mention, the Altered Wedding Book I made for my sister. I'm just showing the front cover of the book, more of this will have to come later.

The Altered Wedding Book idea came to me while perusing the special publication, Somerset in Love, Having never done an altered book I just had to try it. I used lots of different vintage paper, ephemera, lace, buttons, sewing, etc. and painting and collaging techniques. Lots of happy accidents happened along the way and I learned from those too. I'll be submitting it to one of Stampington's open calls for artwork. We'll see what happens.

The cupcakes were a fun little challenge... all 168 of them! I found the edible butterflies at The butterflies are printed on edible wafer paper. They kinda taste like chicken! Not really. But the kids will have fun eating them. Here's how I made the cupcakes: First, the butterflies were cut out (by the bride, Natch!) and lightly dry brush dusted with Wilton silver colored luster. Then, I piped a thin line of Wiltons clear piping gel (comes in a small tub) down the body of the butterflies to soften the body so that the wings could be slightly bent in to look realistic.

The butterflies were then placed in empty egg cartons to dry the gel and help them maintain their shape. Fancy Flours offers help tips with all of this.

Now for the cupcakes: I used the large tip, 2D (or was it the 1M? - Yikes!) The 16 inch Wilton bag was great for holding loads of icing. I piped a nice big mound of frosting in the middle of the cupcakes to give the swirls support. Then, I started the swirls on the outside edge and went round and round like a Dairy Queen ice cream cone. The height of the frosting gave the cupcakes that "over the top" look that lets a simple, little cupcake be the star of the show. All those Hollywood types pay big money for this - I work for enchiladas! Edible, blue, sparkle glitter was lightly dusted on and the butterflies gently applied onto the frosting. Viola! You now have little dead butterflies all over your cupcakes. I mean, you now have beautiful Butterfly cupcakes! Yay!
I should mention we purchased all those crazy cupcakes prebaked and ready to decorate from Sam's and they gave us lovely boxes to transport them all. The cupcake/cake tiers were purchased there as well.

Can you believe that I brought 6 of those little, dead butterfly cupcakes back to Texas with me? Oh, yes indeedy. The chillies and Lovey felt all left out. Airport security was at level orange (a bright, cheery color, I think) and they tried to keep my cupcakes. But I used my Jedi magic stuff and convinced them that these were indeedy real little cupcakes and nothing they should be concerned with and drooling over.

So, now my tale is told. And with my first blog entry, I go... "Out of the strain of the Doing, Into the peace of the Done." -Julia Louise Matilda Woodruff

Next blog: Muffins that taste like donuts!